A poet will read to an audience of one if necessary, and do so with thanks for the opportunity, but nothing beats the energy of a full house — we continue to be so grateful for such great attendance. Great poets, great audiences, etc. etc. etc..
Melody Gee has a sweet smile and conversational reading style. The perfect amount of patter & prologue to her poems. The poems she read were all from her book, Each Crumbling House, and showed off her skill at varied voices and subjects. I introduced her, so I spent a lot of time with her book prior to her reading, time richly spent. Melody’s a 7 months pregnant, ebullient presence.
Jennifer Sweeney’s reading of “Today’s Lesson: Landscapes” from How to Live on Bread and Music I found particularly meaningful and relevant as the mother to at least one wildly imaginative child. It details an academy-minded art teacher’s instruction to a room of second-graders, and illustrates a common failing of well-meant adults: an almost compulsive need to direct a child’s creative process.
One of my favorite parts of the night was when Tricia introduced Jennifer. Tricia is a friend I met through SheWrites, who turns out to (kind of) live in my neighborhood of western Mass., and happens to be friends with Jennifer from a lifetime ago! All my galaxies colliding.
Barbara Ras‘s poems are capacious, intelligent, funny, great fun to read and and even more fun to have read to you. Her wit bolted warmly through the room, what a delight, the perfect closing note. Then I had the good fortune to talk shop with Barbara at dinner later (we went to a fab new place in town, the Blue Rock Restaurant, loved it!) — she directs Trinity University Press — I love discussing the book business anyway, and books especially. The night ended all too soon.
If you haven’t visited our website, maybe you don’t know: we’ve been compiling a video archive of the CPS readings, little by little. So if you’ve lamented having to miss any of our wonderful guests, check it out.
Next month we have Aracelis Girmay and Ross Gay — even though that will mean it’s December already (ACK!), I can’t wait!
Couple posts back I talked about prose poems and mentioned one anthology; here’s another that’s been on my radar that I wanted to mention, too, especially as it’s described as “half critical study and half anthology” on the website. It’s The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Prose Poetry: Contemporary Poets in Discussion and Practice, edited by Gary L. McDowell and F. Daniel Rzicznek. Looks comprehensive and eminently helpful, with a terrific cover to boot. I’ll order it from my library and let you know what I think.
I was lucky enough to spend two whole days with Rhett Iseman Trull, and what fun we had. We talked poetry, literary journals, played with the boys… and Lance made gumbo! Which we wolfed down, starved after our intersecting journeys.
First thing when we stepped out of the car after arriving from the airport, Rhett looked up and spied a bald eagle. Truly! (We discovered later that he’s a regular—Lance always knows these things—called the “Bridge Eagle” around here, because he hovers around the bridge, fishing in the river. Which he can’t do right now, due to its current frozen state.) Sadly, that was the eagle’s first & only appearance to us—if he’s smart he lit off for better hunting grounds.
Rhett & Meg both read wonderfully; they were a great match-up, full of spark & personality, and we had a packed house. After such a lively poetry party, I had a hard time settling into sleep that night. Hooray for me, I had Rhett again the next day when the wacky weather played havoc with her travel plans. More poetry talk, more playing with the boys—Rhett’s a total wiz with kids, Vincent & Aidan adored her—until it was time to bring her back, however reluctantly, to the airport. I already miss her softly Southern lilt, and look forward to seeing her again sometime, I hope, in the not too distant future.
On another note, Carolee and Jill over at ReadWritePoem have named their poetry mini-challenge for the month, and it is “Fall in love with a poet”, cento-style! Check out their post here to read more on this form and what this challenge is all about.
Per the rules, I have altered very little: capitalizations, punctuation (though less than you might imagine), one verb tense, and I added one preposition. Not quite a pure cento, but pretty damn close.
Because I’m in the midst of a Lowell/Bishop kick, and because I can’t seem to follow a prompt without customizing it (sorry!), my plan is this: on day one (today) a cento from Lowell; day two (tomorrow, maybe Thursday), a cento from Bishop; and on the last day (Fri/Sat), a combined Lowell/Bishop cento. As each new poem goes up, the previous one will come down. Comments, both yays and nays, are always welcome.
(As an aside, does anyone know whether it’s okay to submit centos to journals for publication? I ask because the cento, even with due credit given, seems like it inhabits a sketchy magpie area. Any thoughts?)
This Thursday, February 4, at 7:00 pm, the Collected Poets Series welcomes poets Rhett Iseman Trull and Meg Kearney. For more information, please check out our (new & improved!) website: http://collectedpoets.com.
Anyone who follows this blog with any sort of regularity will know why this is a reading I’m especially excited about. Rhett is the phenomenal and phenomenally generous editor of Cave Wall — generous with her time, generous with her praise, generous with her support. I’m simply thrilled that we’re hosting her.
Rhett’s first collection, The Real Warnings, won the 2008 Anhinga Prize for Poetry, and was published this past fall. There’s so much I love about these poems, but one of the things I admire the most is how willingly, almost recklessly, they risk sentimentality. I’m reading Lowell, and the Ian Hamilton biography of Lowell, and perhaps that’s just where my head is at right now, but I’m seeing a real simpatico between Rhett and Cal. He said to an interviewer regarding the notion of sentimentality in relation to another poet, “I think a lot of the best poetry is. … if he hadn’t dared to be sentimental he wouldn’t have been a poet.”
Rhett’s poems tell stories, and even though there’s an “I”, I never feel as if I’m suffocating within the psyche of that single-minded I. Her stories are capacious, and figure other characters who recur and become more than characters, more than metaphors. I’m thinking specifically of the nine poem sequence “Rescuing Princess Zelda,” which recounts the speaker’s time as a young patient in a psych ward. (Another reason I sense an affinity between Rhett & Cal, I suppose.) What a field of potential land mines that subject is! And what a triumph for Rhett — she skirts the danger and makes us feel the real tragedies of the other patients, kids, really, and I think she manages to avoid the tedium such poems can produce because of the wide net she casts, and the almost incidentally astonishing details. From “V. The Jumper”, “…I’m one of the fans / imagining he will leave this place to become / a rock star. We crowd around him / as he strums our sad songs: industrial hum / of the lights, girls too thin to cast shadows, / grilles on the windows slicing the moon.”
I’m introducing Rhett, and I can see I’m going to have to rein myself in — nothing more annoying than an introduction that goes on and on and on. If you’re in the area, please come out and join us — this is going to be one special evening!
We’ve been working on the Collected Poets Series website, revamping it, expanding it, and this week we added some footage of Nancy Pearson’s reading two weeks ago. Our ultimate intention is to create a video archive of the CPS events so that everyone, regardless of geography, can enjoy them. This is our modest first step. Modest in length, and Nancy’s quiet delivery — in content, not at all! So please, check it out, and tell us what you think!
The poet Carmine Starnino contributed a trenchant & tremendously fun prose piece, “Lazy Bastardism: A Notebook,” to this month’s issue of Poetry. I really enjoyed reading this — it’s so full of tasty bits I couldn’t help interrupting my husband’s reading to quote several passages to him. And at several passages, I was restraining myself.
Different sections talk about poetry and prayer (“In fact, regarded a certain way, poetry might even be said to be a menace to religious belief.”), age & youth re: poetry critics (“Can critical faculties show signs of wear and tear?”), the poetry-drafting process (“It’s so easy to lose heart.”), and that’s just the first 3 pages, with 7 more to go. It’s a true gambol through one poet’s head, and perhaps I loved it so much because I share his varied concerns and conclusions. This, in particular:
If grown-ups don’t read poetry, it’s not because they have a bone to pick with poets. The truth is even more intolerable: they prefer not to. How often do we need to be Bartlebyed before we finally admit to ourselves that those Clancy-thumbing dentists and Grisham-toting lawyers aren’t confused or afraid of commitment? They’re just not that into us.
I’m deeply interested now in reading more of Starnino’s work, prose and especially poems. He’s Canadian, so I’m unsure of how available he is in the States, and besides which I’m still in a book-buying freeze. Thank the poetry gods for the internet!
Andrea Cohen has two poems in this issue, also, and they fairly fizz with word play — they also required the full read-’em-outloud-to-the-husband treatment. Poetry‘s January podcast features her reading one of them, and, among other things, a conversation with…Carmine Starnino! Yes, I like him very much.
What does he mean by “lazy bastardism”? I’m afraid you’ll have to read his notebook to find out, because I couldn’t even begin to do it justice.